7 June 2023 • Alums Credibility in the Courtroom

With his new book, HWS Trustee and seasoned trial attorney Sam Stern ’03 offers insights into effective witness cross-examination and the foundations of civil society.

The Absolute Beginners Guide to Cross-Examination, the new book by Sam Stern ’03, offers a clear, contemporary window into one of the most well-known courtroom scenarios.

Drawing on his experience as a litigator, Stern’s book shares the fundamental principles and tactics of cross-examination, when lawyers have the chance to strengthen their case by questioning a witness from the other side. Using examples from famous movie trials, Stern puts the principles into context, detailing how “being credible, being accurate, understanding what issues matter and what issues do not matter” impacts proceedings in the courtroom and the social contract that the justice system serves.

An experienced trial lawyer, educator and HWS Trustee, Stern specializes in civil and criminal litigation. Prior to founding Stern LLC, he worked at Kobre & Kim LLP, as well as in the U.S. Department of Justice as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and as a state prosecutor both in Florida and New Jersey.

The book challenges readers to move beyond their own preconceptions and “look at things for what they are, not for what you want them to be,” Stern explains. “Cross examination is not just this ‘TV moment,’ it’s this indispensable engine for truth-telling. Underneath that, it’s the basis on which civil order follows, because without it we cannot resolve our disputes.… How can we have a civilized society without a nonviolent, credible operation to resolve the inevitable disputes that arise between us?”

Former U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. calls the book “a master class,” and Florida Supreme Court Justice John D. Couriel says Stern’s writing “makes it a pleasure to read effective cross-examination techniques.”

“Stern is a masterful trial attorney and his book is a must-read for anyone who wants to be one,” says Stephen N. Zack, former president of the American Bar Association.

In addition to his courtroom experience, Stern is an accomplished teacher of cross-examination techniques and serves as a member of the faculty at the University of Miami School of Law and at the University of Virginia School of Law Trial Advocacy College. He is a member of the Bar in Florida, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia.

A history major at HWS, Stern says that his education at the Colleges “served as a critical foundation in my development of a free-thinking mind.” He went on to earn his J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. As a member of the HWS Board of Trustees, he serves as Vice Chair of the Audit and Compliance Committee.

Right: Samuel A. Stern '03